Just a little late, Blumenthal gives Murphy his blessing

It’s likely to get a few seconds, at best, on a couple of TV newscasts. So, what was it worth to U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy for U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., to stand before television cameras Monday and endorse Murphy’s campaign for U.S. Senate?

The support of a grass-roots group like the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, which intends to make endorsements Wednesday in two high-profile races, might mean more: troops on the ground for phone banks and door-to-door canvassing.

And a poll this year found endorsements to be of limited value in the Republican presidential race.

Larson Blumenthal Murphy

Blumenthal with Larson (l) and Murphy (r).

But individual endorsements still carry significant weight, depending on the endorser and the circumstances of the endorsement, according to politicians and operatives in both parties.

“Dick Blumenthal is the most popular official in the state of Connecticut,” Murphy said. “I think that Democrats especially are going to pay attention to who Dick Blumenthal has chosen to stand beside him.”

One of his Republican rivals, Chris Shays, readily agreed on the value of endorsements in general and Blumenthal’s in particular.

“I think they help,” Shays said. “I would love to have Dick Blumenthal’s endorsement. I mean, who wouldn’t? They help. Are they decisive? No.”

Shays filed paperwork Monday affirming he will be a candidate in the Republican primary, challenging Linda McMahon, who won the endorsement of the GOP convention Friday night.

Susan Bysiewicz went through the same exercise the week after the Democratic convention. Her campaign manager, Jonathan Ducote, shrugged off Monday’s endorsement by Blumenthal.

“The insider part of this process is over,” Ducote said. “We’re into the primary. It’s up to 700,000 Democrats to decide.”

McMahon and Murphy rolled out a steady stream of endorsements leading up to their respective conventions, an effort to create an air of inevitability. Murphy won the Democratic convention vote, 3-1; McMahon, nearly 2-1.

Shortly before the convention, William Tong ended his campaign for the Democratic nomination and joined Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman in endorsing Murphy, a three-term congressman.

It comes relatively late, but Blumenthal’s endorsement ties a ribbon around an impressive package of endorsements of Murphy over his rival for the Democratic nomination, Bysiewicz, the former secretary of the state.

“Murphy has assembled pretty much the full array — not just Blumenthal, but the governor, every member of Congress, every state office holder — and Susan is down to the third assistant dog catcher in Bloomfield,” said Richard Foley, a GOP campaign consultant and former state chairman.

Andrew Roraback, a Republican congressional candidate backed by Foley, was the beneficiary of a well-timed endorsement last week. Mike Clark, one of five Republicans running for the open seat in the 5th Congressional District, ended his campaign and endorsed Roraback.

All 14 delegates from Clark’s hometown of Farmington voted for Roraback, who won the convention endorsement on the third ballot Friday.

Murphy, who managed a campaign for Congress before he ever ran as a candidate, said endorsements clearly vary in value.

“Dick Blumenthal is the most popular official in the state of Connecticut,” said Murphy, who ran a campaign before he ran for office. “I think that Democrats especially are going to pay attention to who Dick Blumenthal has chosen to stand beside him.”

The endorsement by Blumenthal is another signal to Democrats in Washington that they need not wait until after the primary to donate money to Murphy. It also is another nudge to activist Democrats in Connecticut.

“I think if endorsements don’t help you persuade voters, they certainly help you build an organization,” Murphy said.

Blumenthal endorsed Murphy in the atrium of Capital Community College in downtown Hartford, joined by U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, who endorsed Malloy before his 2010 primary with Ned Lamont. Larson is said to have put work behind his endorsement, campaigning with Malloy.

“I think endorsements always matter,” said Roy Occhiogrosso, the governor’s senior adviser. “That’s the reason people go after them. I think different endorsements help you with different aspects of your campaign — some with fundraising, some with the stature of the person, some with the endorsing person’s contact list.

“When you are talking about someone with the stature of Sen. Blumenthal or Gov. Malloy, it helps across the board.”

Tom Swan, the executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, has a bias toward the importance of endorsements by grass-roots groups over individuals.

But Swan, who managed Ned Lamont’s campaign for U.S. Senate in 2006 against Sen. Joseph Lieberman, whose open seat is sought by Murphy this year, said individual endorsements do help by what they say to activists.

When George Jepsen, a former state Senate majority leader and Democratic state chairman, endorsed Lamont, it signaled that Lamont was a serious contender, Swan said.

Others are valuable when the endorser campaigns. Swan said U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., made two exhaustive campaign swings through Connecticut on Lamont’s behalf.

Blumenthal said his endorsement will be backed by action.

“First and foremost, I am going to do whatever he asks me to do,” Blumenthal said. “My hope is that he will ask me to be on the ground, campaigning face to face, person to person.”

Blumenthal said he will talk about his own race against McMahon, who outspent him 5-1 in 2010.

As far as his being a little late in climbing onto the Murphy bandwagon, Blumenthal said he wanted to respect the Democratic convention.

“The endorsement by the delegates at the convention is a significant sign of support from the party, especially so overwhelmingly,” Blumenthal said. “I thought that was an important mark of respect to the party, which has been so supportive of me. But I also wanted to think long and hard, because this decision is personally so important to me. I am choosing someone who will be a partner, someone who will work with me every day.”

And that was a talking point Murphy was happy to use: “I think people are going to start paying attention to the fact that folks who have served with Susan Bysiewicz and myself are overwhelmingly, almost unanimously, choosing me to serve as U.S. senator in this race.”